Our View: Flying ahead | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Flying ahead

News this week that Frontier Airlines is close to a deal to serve Yampa Valley Regional Airport is exciting.

Such a flight will bring airline competition between Steamboat and Denver, which should benefit pricing and expand connecting options for Yampa Valley residents. It also would continue an unprecedented string of successes for the airport and air service in general.

All that’s left is for the deal to be finalized. We hope the airline officials’ optimism is warranted and the deal indeed goes through.

Last year, Frontier announced it wanted to expand its service between Denver and other markets. The airline contacted 65 communities, including Steamboat Springs, with plans to open nine new destinations. The first three of Frontier’s new destinations – Wichita, Kan.; Rapid City, S.D.; and Sioux City, Iowa – were announced last week. The remaining new destinations will be announced next month.

Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., has been heavily involved in airline negotiations. Wirth said negotiations with Frontier have been positive, though they have not been concluded. Still, Wirth said he would bet on Steamboat’s chances.

Frontier officials would only say the next round of announcements is expected to include some Colorado mountain communities. A newspaper in Sun Valley, Idaho – which was vying for Frontier service – reported those communities would be Colorado Springs, Aspen and Steamboat.

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The flights would be daily on the Q400, a new 70- to 78-seat propjet from Bombardier. The Q400 was specifically designed to serve as a low-cost regional carrier for airline companies.

Frontier would add the new service sometime this fall and would contract with partner Lynx Aviation to provide the flights.

The Frontier service would compete with United, which provides four flights per day on 37-seat turboprops operated by Skywest. United adds a jet flight to DIA during the ski season.

Frontier’s competition with United out of the Denver hub has resulted in significant price breaks for travelers on both airlines. Seeing that competition expand into markets like the Yampa Valley would be a win for tourists and locals.

The addition of Frontier service would be on top of what already is expected to be the biggest winter in the airport’s history, with five airlines serving 10 markets and an estimated 175,000 available seats. For the first time, YVRA will have service to all three airports serving the New York metro area.

Not that long ago, Yampa Valley Regional Airport was a small, crowded airport with a dirt parking lot and mostly seasonal service. How things have changed. The facility, once second rate, is in a different league thanks to a three-phase expansion that included a new terminal, a new parking system, a new apron to accommodate larger jets, new passenger waiting areas, new ticket counters and new retail stores.

And as the facility has grown, so has service. With Frontier, YVRA would have year-round service on three airlines serving two markets. Thanks to the Local Marketing District, Steamboat has a funding source that puts it in an advantageous position when it comes to the competition for resort air service.

Yampa Valley Regional Airport is a critical component to our tourism economy. And, as the Frontier deal shows, the decision to invest in its air facility is paying dividends.